It is night and day the difference between what we saw from Springboks last year to what we are seeing now from Allister Coetzee men. I think most of us can agree that the inclusion of Brendan Venter and Franco Smith has made a huge difference.

With that Warren Whiteley and his leadership within the team are second to that for the success so far this season but Simnikiwe Xabanisa from CityPress spoke to Blue Bulls director John Micthell on what have changed with Springboks.

“What I’ve observed is that I see a leaner athlete, so that tells me they’re doing something in their periodisation that’s relative to how they want to play.

“I see more sticking to policy and structure in their back and front halves of the field; I see consistency in selection. When a player is replaced, it’s almost like they’re trying to replace him with a very similar skills set. All of that leads to better team cohesion and, clearly, the foundations of their culture are critical to how they go about things … they’re all connected to one objective,” he said.

Conditioning and the new buzzword in South African team sport – culture – have received the most airtime. But is that all it takes for everything to fall into place for a team?

“At the end of the day, you’ve got to play the game and be ready to play during the most demanding periods of the game,” said Mitchell. “As we’re well aware, the games are going to be more demanding. Australia will probably be more demanding in terms of ball in play than Argentina and, certainly, the All Blacks will ramp it right up, so to speak.

“So, whether they’re ready for that most demanding period or have the ability to sustain it against the All Blacks is yet to be seen. But if you look at their performances in June and the way they dealt with the Argentinians in a very calm way, they’re handling the most demanding periods.”

Unlike many others, Mitchell was enthusiastic about the experiment to play Cheetahs flanker Uzair Cassiem at number eight in Whiteley’s injury-enforced absence.

“I thought Cassiem had an outstanding game at number eight. His energy and mobility around the park were impressive. I’ve seen him play a lot of blindside, but I hadn’t seen him play at number eight … he adjusted really well. But Australia and New Zealand will put greater demands on him in terms of mobility,” Mitchell said.

“These days, we’re after quicker number eights than just the slow, big and strong number eights. Your blindside is probably more of that, but if you can get a quick number eight, it can be very effective, certainly in scrum play.”

That said, he would like to see the explosive Jean-Luc du Preez start at blindside flank: “You could get away with Du Preez as a starter dealing with the intensity and the physicality of the gain line earlier in the match. For me, Du Preez is probably a starting gain line physicality-type player, whereas the faster loose-forward with a little more evasion is probably ideal for the finishing of the test match.”

But Mitchell cautioned against expecting the Springboks to suddenly be the All Blacks’ equals.

“At the end of the day, the All Blacks are pretty close to four years of stacking good stuff on good stuff, and now the Boks have found a sweet spot in their model, so it’s important that they keep stacking good stuff on good stuff.

“Whether that’s going to bridge the gap, we’ll have to wait and see. At the end of the day, you have to start somewhere and, in my mind, they’re doing the right thing. I’m looking forward to those two test matches when they arrive.

“Interestingly, I was reading an article by Sir Clive Woodward saying the All Blacks are vulnerable. That’s a very dangerous statement to make.

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  1. The Boks are a lot fitter and more mobile. They also running the ball for change and looking to attack. Agree that JLDP should start when it’s more abrasive and tighter upfront, then look for looser faster forward in last 20″

  2. Venter’s impact was instant. Backs are still directionless under Smith… throwing a hundred thousand passes without angles, drawing in and simple switch moves does not score tries.

    What more does on need to say about having one of the best blind-siders in the game right now actually starting.

    Every time he (and PSDT) have come on the game has changed instantly!

  3. Never been a fan of Venter, but they all doing an excellent job.

    But to be honest, for one thing the selections are far better than last year. Hungry young in-form players – what a difference.

    They also scoring tries and attacking with huge skill. I still remember these mamparras going on about our players not having the skills – what a load of utter rubbish.

  4. I am enjoying the run the Boks are having and yes they have not faced the top 5 teams in the world yet but one needs to give credit to AC

    He said last year that he did not had his own team nor did he had enough time to prepare.

    This year he got his own team and had enough time and one can see the results.

    I do not think you just arrive in Salta and put 40 points against Argies.

    We have a group of players that looks far better than the so called stars from last year and wannabe European players.

    What AC have done this year has been great and it was always going to be a rebuilding year after the shit off last year.

    Venter and Smith with Proudfoot had made a huge difference from last year and they will only get better as we keep going in year two and next year in year three.

    Everything in todays rugby works towards World Cups and the next one is in 2019.

    What happen in between seems to count for not much these days.

    The only thing people can bitch about around AC is his selection but that is opened to person to person personal opinion.

    All I want to see win or lose that we improve in our game…

    We will find it hard to beat the Aussies and NZ away from home but it will be how they play these games

    At home we can challenge any team in the world even the All Blacks.

    We miss Whiteley allot I think but Eben has been doing well with the other senior players.

    My two cents

  5. @bryce_in_oz:

    What really irritates me with the current backline is Jessie’s inability to run straight. How I miss the days when we had Jaque Fourie straitening the line and punching holes through the opposition’s defensive line.

    Jesse keeps crabbing across the field cutting off all the space the guys outside him has. They then have to try and cut back inside running straight into the traffic.

  6. Can we also give a huge thumbs up to Matt Proudfoot? He did a great job turning the Stormers light five around back in the day and made a proper scrumming unit out of them and this year he had turned the Bok forwards into a scrumming machine. He obviously knows a thing or two about scrumming.

  7. Yip if they producing the results, and playing positive enterprising rugby scoring tries, I got no problem with coaches or selections.

    In an ideal world I’d make 3 changes for NZ away, cos I think we got a strong chance of beating them with our best XV starting, but overall a far better selected and coached side than last year’s disaster.

  8. @Craven:

    They’ve always had crabby 13’s (other than JF) in the same way they seem to battle running the ball left-to-right.


    I don’t see much improvement in the backline… throwing hundreds of passes without breaking lines doesn’t count for much.

    Venter is off to Italy soon to plot the Bok’s downfall again…


    Definitely been an improvement in the scrums… or could it be they are playing a team ranked below Fiji?

  9. Bryce – I don’t think they were strongest french and Argy sides we ever faced but still a very good series of results. For example, I doubt Oz, Ireland or Wales could do what Boks did to those teams.

    I reckon this Bok team on par with Emgland now and could get much better.

  10. @cab:

    Australia did exactly that last year away… put them to the sword.

    England would whoop this Boks side… their B’ side gave this very Argie team a hiding at home this year.

    Until we see the Boks against someone ranked higher than 8th it’s difficult to tell. I still see so many glaring gaps in these wins where they only pull away in the last twenty.

  11. @Jacques:

    Doesn’t make it easier to swallow the fact that Venter plotted the Boks downfall against Italy last year and he’s now had more insight and influence in the Bok set-up but is yet again leaving for Italy to do the same again.

    Catch 22 really… his impact has been immediate… would have preferred him to stay put for a change… between his moonlighting at global clubs, to national teams not to mention his practise… the guy is like a Whirling Dervish… could you imagine if he stopped for a minute and focused solely on the Boks.

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